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Finding Aid to the Cooper Ornithological Society Records, 1874-1994, 1874-1994
BANC MSS 74/144 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Chronology
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Cooper Ornithological Society records
    Date (inclusive): 1874-1994
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 74/144 c
    Creator: Cooper Ornithological Society
    Extent: Number of containers: 13 cartons, 1 oversize box, and 8 volumes. Linear feet: 17.5 linear ft. 1 Digital Object (1 image)
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Cooper Ornithological Society Records, 1874-1993, document the organization's history from its origins as a small association of naturalists to its current status as a renowned scientific society with extensive international membership. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence and administrative records produced by the Board of Directors and COS Officers. Also prevalent are committee minutes, annual meeting materials, and individual member correspondence and field notes. Materials relating to the official publications of the society, including The Condor and Studies in Avian Biology, are also included.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Cooper Ornithological Society Records, BANC MSS 74/144 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital reproductions of selected items are available.

    Related Collections

    Louis B. Bishop Papers, BANC MSS 75/140 c
    Willie Chambers Papers (bulk 1891-1964), BANC MSS 67/131 c
    Joseph Grinnell Papers, 1884-1948
    Joseph and Hilda Wood Grinnell Papers, 1886-1967, BANC MSS 73/25 c
    Portraits of Joseph Grinnell's Family and his Colleagues, ca. 1880-1969, BANC PIC 1973.044-PIC
    (Alden H. Miller) Papers Relating to the Cooper Ornithological Society, ca. 1949-1965), BANC MSS 67/3 c
    John G. Tyler Correspondence Relating to Ornithological Research, ca. 1905-1937, BANC MSS 79/11 c
    Miklos D. F. Udvardy Papers, 1947-1995, BANC MSS 99/306 c
    Photographs Relating to the Cooper Ornithological Society and the American Ornithological Union, ca. 1900-1993, BANC PIC 1966.052-PIC
    [Board of Governors of the Cooper Ornithological Society], 1926, BANC PIC 1979.146-PIC

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Chambers, W. L. (W. Lee)
    Grinnell, Joseph, 1877-1939
    Law, John Eugene, d.1931
    Swarth, Harry Schelwald, b. 1878
    Birds--Pacific Coast
    Cooper Ornithological Club

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Cooper Ornithological Society Records were given to The Bancroft Library by Lois Stone on March 12, 1973. Additions were made in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1988, and 1994.


    No accruals are expected.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Juliet Demeter and Josue Hurtado in 2004.

    Organizational History

    The Cooper Ornithological Club (COC), the forerunner of the present Cooper Ornithological Society, was formed on June 22, 1893 in San Jose by four active birders and oologists in order to provide a forum in which to study and discuss birds with like-minded, well-informed enthusiasts. In December 1934 the Club became incorporated, and in May 1952, the Club changed its name to the Cooper Ornithological Society, with the principal intent of better conveying the club's academic and scientific orientation. The Society currently numbers over 3000 professional and amateur ornithologists from around the world. The primary goal of the Society, as expressed through its meetings, sponsorship of symposia, and publications, is to advance the scientific study of birds and their habitats, and support their conservation.
    The original founding members of the COC included Chester Barlow, Wilford H. Osgood, Harry Painton, and Fred Schneider. The name of the club, as well as that of the present society which bears its name, commemorates an early California naturalist, Dr. James Graham Cooper (1830-1902), whose son, J.S. Cooper, was long active in the affairs of the Society.
    The earliest ornithological club in California, similarly named after Cooper, was founded in the winter of 1890-1891 by students at the University of the Pacific in Santa Clara. It lasted only a few years, when many if not most of the early members of the club transferred to the newly instituted Stanford University. While it was resurrected for a short time a few years later, and is important as an early example of organized ornithological research on the West Coast, it achieved nothing close to the academic presence nor level of regional dispersion achieved by the later Cooper Ornithological Club (or the Society which eventually took its name).
    The Southern Division of the Club arose from independent origins in 1893 when several bird collectors organized to form the Southern California Natural History Society. As its member list, meetings, and activities increasingly overlapped with the local COC chapter in Santa Clara, however, the SCNHS title soon fell by the wayside. Although each division had regular meetings and field trip schedules, the first joint annual meeting of the two divisions of the COC occurred in Los Angeles in 1926.
    Although its commitment to filling its principal goals has never wavered, the Society has undergone numerous structural organizational changes during the course of its existence, reflecting both its natural growth as a professional organization, as well as the shifting interests and aspirations of both the organization and its members. Certain events have precipitated both technical and procedural adjustments, the incorporation of the COC in 1934 being one obvious example of such an occurrence. In 1976 the Northern and Southern Divisions were abolished as such, signaling a less provincial mindset on part of the Society and reflecting the increasingly international scope of membership.
    The present leadership is composed of a nine-member Board of Directors; nine officers, including two positions held by editors of the Society's two major publications; and nearly twenty standing and ad-hoc committees. There are also a number of representatives to various councils and societies.
    Progressive research and widespread ornithological awareness and appreciation have always been at the heart of the Society's mission, and the numerous publications it has produced over the course of its existence have been integral to helping achieve those objectives. COC member and future Club president Harry R. Taylor's independent monthly journal, The Nidiologist (later called The Nidologist), served as the closest thing to an official Club publication for the first four years of the Club's existence. The Nidologist halted publication in 1897 and the new unofficial outlet became The Osprey, a monthly journal co-founded by Chester Barlow, who had played a key role in stimulating the formation of the Club, as well as assisting in the formulation of its earliest aims and tenets. In 1898 the club decided to publish an official journal. The first issue was published in 1899 as the Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club, and was edited primarily by Barlow. In 1900 the name of the journal was changed to The Condor. The journal, which is currently one of the premier ornithological publications in the world, has been published continuously for over a century.
    At the same time The Condor was becoming established around the turn of the 20th century, the COC also recognized the need for a forum that would be more amenable to longer submissions beyond the scope of The Condor. A new series was begun, titled Pacific Coast Avifauna, to allow for these more extensive offerings. The series was published continuously until 1974, and continued in 1978 under the new title Studies in Avian Biology, whose present scope includes both monographs and proceedings of symposia of general interest to ornithologists.
    From the handful of founding members present at the first organizational meetings of the Cooper Ornithological Club in 1893, and those at the first organizational meetings of the Southern California Natural History Society (forerunner to the Southern Division of the COC) held that same year, the Cooper Ornithological Society has grown from a small group of naturalists and amateur enthusiasts into an international community of scholars, scientists, and amateur enthusiasts. Preserving the rich history evidenced by the records in this collection is of vital importance to present as well as future generations of ornithologists and historians of science.


    1890 Unaffiliated forerunner to the Cooper Ornithological Club, also named after James Cooper, is founded at the College of the Pacific in Santa Clara, California.
    1893 Cooper Ornithological Club is founded on June 22 in San Jose, California.
      Future Southern Division of the COC is founded separately in Los Angeles, as the Southern California Natural History Society.
    1894 Cooper member H.R. Taylor publishes The Nidiologist (later renamed The Nidologist), the first unofficial publication dedicated to providing coverage of the COC.
      Southern California Natural History Society merges with the Santa Clara COC chapter, giving rise to the Southern Division of the COC.
    1895 First annual COC outing is held in Arroyo Seco, California.
    1896 First formal mention of Northern and Southern Divisions occurs in The Nidologist.
    1897 The Nidologist ceases to publish. A column edited by COC member Donald Cohen appearing in the unaffiliated journal The Osprey becomes the new mouthpiece of the Club.
    1899 Club begins to publish Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club.
    1900 Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club changes name to The Condor.
      Club begins to publish Pacific Coast Avifauna, a series intended to provide a forum for longer submissions, as well as transcripts of symposia proceedings.
    1921 Board of Governors is formed.
    1926 First annual meeting of entire COC (North and South) is held in Los Angeles.
    1934 Cooper Ornithological Club becomes incorporated.
    1952 Name of the organization is changed at the annual business meeting to Cooper Ornithological Society.
    1965 Editorial office of The Condor leaves California for Lawrence, Kansas.
    1970 Cooper Ornithological Society and Wilson Ornithological Society hold first joint annual meeting.
    1974 Pacific Coast Avifauna halts publication.
    1976 Northern and Southern Divisions are abolished.
    1978 Series in Avian Biology, a new COS publication, assumes the role previously held by Pacific Coast Avifauna.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Cooper Ornithological Society (COS) Records, 1874-1993, document the organization's history from its origins as a small association of naturalists to its current status as a renowned scientific society with extensive international membership. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence and administrative records produced by the Board of Directors and COS Officers. Also prevalent are committee minutes, annual meeting materials, and individual member correspondence and field notes. Materials relating to the official publications of the society, including The Condor and Studies in Avian Biology, are also included. The records are divided into five series: Administration, Divisions/Chapters, Annual Meetings, Publications, and Members.
    The first series in the collection, Administration (1893-1994), is composed of five subseries: Leadership, Committees, Governing Documents, Financial Records, and History. Leadership is further divided into two sub-subseries: Officers, which consists primarily of correspondence, and Board of Directors, which consists of meeting minutes recorded after the Society's incorporation in 1934. Correspondence of the Treasurer was originally kept with that of the other officers and so is included in this subseries as opposed to the later one Financial Records. The final subseries in this series, History, includes the earliest Cooper Ornithological Club (COC) minutes on record (1893-1899), recorded by the first Northern Division Secretary and future editor of The Condor, Chester Barlow. It also contains materials documenting the Society's own investigation of its past, through both committee work and the independent research of members. An eloquent if somewhat irreverent history of the Club up to the year 1929, composed by Harry S. Swarth, past Northern-Division president and long-time associate editor of The Condor, is included in this subseries.
    Since 1896, the Society was composed of two divisions: Northern and Southern. In 1976, the distinction, intended to allow for the fledgling Club's vertical expansion across California during the organization's early years, was deemed anachronistic, since the society already had extensive national and international membership, and was eliminated. Arranged into two subseries according to this earlier distinction, Divisions (1896-1989) reveals the separate origins and stratified early development of the two divisions, as well as the shared qualities which ultimately lead to the contemporary Society's cohesive organizational structure.
    The most comprehensive series in the collection is Annual Meetings (1926-1989), which contains materials from nearly sixty annual Club/Society meetings, including documents relating to the first annual meeting of both the Northern and Southern divisions of the Cooper Ornithological Club, held in Los Angeles in 1926. The series includes programs, correspondence, announcements, and abstracts of papers presented at the meetings.
    Although not as complete as the previous series, Publications (1894-1991), remains one of the strongest series in the collection. The publishing history of the Society is complex and significant; in some ways, the Society truly expanded beyond California when the publishing office left the state in 1965. More conservatively, it is clear that the official publications of the Society and their editors have had tremendous impact on the growth of the Society both in stature and membership. This series includes materials relating to The Condor, the official publication of the Cooper Ornithological Society, as well as materials concerning the two Cooper publications intended to accommodate lengthier submissions: the now-defunct Pacific Coast Avifauna, and its successor, Studies in Avian Biology. The series also includes official and unofficial documentation of the Club's activities prior to the naissance of The Condor.
    Members (1874-1986) provides especially strong coverage of the Society's genesis and formative years. It is composed of two subseries; the first focuses on the body of correspondence generated by the Society's devoted members over the course of the organization's history. The second subseries includes membership rolls, miscellaneous field notes, photographs of the earliest members, and various member-related ephemera.